Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Number One Reason for Decline in Church Attendance

In this post Thom Rainer hits the nail on the head in regard to the growing category of the semi-churched in our faith communities. As a pastor and planter of a church with a large percentage of 25-35 year olds, I think the semi-churched mindset is even more pronounced. Sited reasons for inconsistent attendance includes the desire to travel, strong ties to extended family, and the demands of young family life. But are these really valid interruptions to the priority of Christian community? Maybe, but these challenges aren't new, after all the distractions of youth and young family have always been an issue. What does appear to be a new and growing mindset among believers, is a decreased sense of need and value for Biblical community.

Here's some additional reflections on the issue from Kevin DeYoung. Some good insights are included regarding how we can begin to address the problem in our churches. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Arrogant and Impatient Church Planters

Some good thoughts here from Bruce Wesley for both those who oversee church planting and for church planters in general. Sometimes people justify arrogance as confident leadership and impatience as a strong work ethic. But we need to call a spade a spade. At the heart of these problems is a root of pride that will ultimately betray the hopes of a planter and pastor by making you a leader who is unapproachable and ultimately ineffective. A good argument for a good assessment, coaching, and accountability plan for all planters and pastors.

Cultivating a Healthy Group Identity

In this post Brandon Cox identifies some characteristics of a healthy group life in your church. He also provides some metrics that clarify the measure of success for each of these categories. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. If we have any hopes of creating healthy community in our churches and church plants, we need to do more than just celebrate the few things we do well. Embracing a clear and comprehensive vision for success helps to provide alignment and accountability as we work toward a healthy communal identity.

1. There is a consistency in meeting and a desire to meet.
2. There is genuine authenticity and transparent sharing.
3. People are growing in knowledge, but they are also growing in grace.
4. Real community and friendship is increasing.
5. There is an intentionality about serving together and developing as leaders.
6. There is a culture of inclusion and inviting.
7. New hosts are stepping forward.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Religious Make-up In The United States

The Business Insider magazine recently put out this map representing the largest participating religious groups in our nation. You can argue the influence of the mega-church all you want, but nothing matches the cultural and spiritual impact of a blanket of churches covering entire regions. Why, because mega churches grow and shrink based on the leadership gifts of one person, but churches tend to maintain viability for generations.

Soapbox warning...

Because the nation is blanketed in churches does that mean the work is finished? No, because...

  1. Population is growing faster than churches
  2. If the pursuit is Gospel-centered word-centered churches then there is still a great need in many regions
  3. There are still churches dying every year so we need to keep up and surpass the loss of those churches
The U.S. is reached so we should just focus on global initiatives. No, because...
  1. Our approach should be both/and because the US movement of churches will fund our global movement. In this regard we need a healthy movement of church expansion.
  2. The previously mentioned statistics regarding population growth suggests the Christian Gospel is actually losing ground.
  3. New churches reach new generations. New generations are the workforce behind the global movement of the Gospel so, rather than not plant churches, let's plant a bunch of churches with a strong vision for global mission. 
We should focus on organic (less institutional) models of church planting because that's how we'll reach future generations of unbelievers. No, because....
  1. The biblical model of church planting shows us that mission expansion looks something like this.... discipleship leads to conversion, conversion leads to church membership, membership leads to governance. Purely organic missional models aren't doing this. 
  2. Our focus should be to incorporate missionally progressive models of discipleship into Biblical church planting movements. In other words how we do mission better should be part of our model for church multiplication, not a replacement for church multiplication.
  3. Similar to the mega-churches lack of influence for generations, the organic church movement won't last because it does't have the necessary governance structures in place to sustain generations of influence.
What's my point? We need to get busy planting churches!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Half of the US Lives in These Counties

Half of the U.S. population lives in 146 counties. These locations should be a major focus for the planting of churches. Happy to say I live in one of these counties!

(HT: Business Insider)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

15 Life Giving Things When Planting Churches in Cities

Here’s the notes from an encouraging talk by Justin Buzzard at this years CPLF meeting in Nashville. Some very helpful information for church planters.

1. Know and Love Your City

  • Live in a place where you love the city
  • Who is your city? 
  • What is your cities history?
  • What is your cities values?
  • What is your cities future? 
  • What is your cities dreams?
  • What is your cities fears? This is opposite of your cities values. 
  • What is your cities ethos? Mode of operation? 

2. Prioritize Friendships

  • Most church planters are lonely and need strong friendship
  • Don’t allow a fear of favoritism to keep you from friendship
  • Give a significant priority to making friends… believers and unbelievers

3. Disciple a Handful of Men

  • Focus your life on discipling a few men well
  • Everyone in the church should have 2 or so people they are investing in

4. Rest

  • Rest daily 
  • Turn off technology… sleep well at night… 
  • Keep the sabbath
  • Once a month have a retreat day… reading bible, praying, reading good books, and then dreaming about the church
  • Take an annual break… Justin takes the month of July off every year
  • Read: "The Power of Full Engagement"… a good secular book on maintaining rest

5. Unleash Your Rookies

  • Don’t hold back your new and young believers
  • Let them serve, evangelize, etc…
  • Rebuke the control idols

6. Play Big

  • Don’t hold back… give everything a 100% efforts. Go for it.

7. Resist the Devil

  • 1 Peter 5

8. Go to Where Your Men Work

9. Do What You Love

  • One of the quickest ways to burn out is to stop doing what you enjoy

10. Date Your Wife

  • We are in a job where your marriage can disqualify you
  • Invest in dating your wife

11. Set the Culture

  • What your church is going to feel like… how is it going to operate
  • Set a culture of encouragement… sending out encouragement cards
  • Celebrate any opportunity you get
  • Run to the tensions… don’t avoid, but aggressively deal with the issues you face
  • Set a Gospel culture where grace is real in your church

12. Take Care of Yourself Financially

  • Cities are expensive… take care of yourself… speak with financial planners
  • Set a solid salary package that will fully support you

13. Finish Sermons Earlier in the Week

  • 8-10 hours on a sermon and have it done by Wednesday morning
  • Monday to study the text, Tuesday to outline, Wednesday to assemble

14. Let God Reck You

  • God will destroy the church planter somewhere in the journey of planting
  • Embrace it as God’s good means of changing you as a person and planter
  • Church planting can be the greatest means of sanctification in your life… accept this and recognize it as good.

15. Stay Excited About Jesus

Racial Demographics in the US

Here is a great resource for pastors and church planters. The Racial Dot Map by the Weldon Cooper Center gives a visual representation of racial demographics in our cities, an important information source as we seek to create multi-cultural gospel movements and churches. Below is the map of Milwuakee, one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Where Christianity is Growing Fastest

According to this report, if the current rate of Christian growth continues, China could have more Christians than any other country in the world by 2030. As pointed out by my friend Pastor Matthew Svoboda, 40 years ago China had less than 1 in 1,000 Christians, today 1 in 10. Amazing! The growth happening within several Muslim countries is also encouraging to see.

It's good to be reminded that we are part of a Gospel movement of disciples and churches multiplying around the globe.

Friday, November 08, 2013

How to Become a Church-Planting Church

Couldn't agree with this article more in terms of practical ways you can become a church-planting church. Oh that existing churches would get a heart for this New Testament model of missional faithfulness. Below is the overview and the full article here.

Year 1
  • Assess and re-define your church missions strategy/philosophy.
  • Allocate a certain percentage of your annual budget for church planting.
Years 2 to 5
  • Partner with other churches in supporting a church planter.
  • Adopt and support an existing church planter.
  • Intentionally build a church-planting ethos in your church.
Years 6 and Beyond
  • Do a church-planting residency with a future church planter.
  • Hire staff with the aim of sending them out to plant after 3 to 5 years.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Des Moines Boot Camp Announced

If you are in process or interested in planting, this 5-day boot camp is a great resource for you to consider. For more information or to register for the boot camp click here.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Small Groups on Mission

Here's a great example of what it can look like for each group in your church to live out a mission focus within the community.

ServeRDU2013 Recap from Josh Sliffe on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Church Planting is the New Testament Plan

On Sunday in my message from Acts 19 on what happens when we plant churches, I closed with this strong quote from J.A. Meders on why church planting is the primary plan in the New Testament. A plan we should all care about and move forward with in good measure, in both our own life and the life of our church.
How did Paul help Corinth? He planted a church. The city of Thessalonica? Another church plant. Did Paul mix it up in Ephesus? Maybe a wrestling gym with a crucifixion theme? Of course not—he planted a church.
Planting Churches. Planting The Gospel.

The planting of gospel-centered churches, filled with gospel-centered people who live as grace-leaking, missional monsters as lights in the darkness, inviting the dead to come alive in Jesus Christ and to dwell in the Kingdom of God—that is the hope of your city and mine.

Our cities don’t need more shows. The movie theaters, stadiums, and Redboxes have that covered. Our cities don’t need the planting of services, but they need the missional going of Christians, our disciple-making, our witnessing—that’s church planting.

We have the power of God that makes demons shudder, that sets captives free, that can save a thief on the cross, that can comfort a prostitute, that can redeem a drunk, that can restore a religious hypocrite—that can fulfill all that we are looking for, made for—that power, that word, that name, that person is Jesus.

That is the number one missional strategy of the New Testament. Nothing has changed since Acts 28. We cannot improve upon what Dr. Luke has chronicled. And for us to put more weight behind any other strategy might be the most idiotic thing we could do. This strategy is old, normal, and completely supernatural.

And maybe, just maybe one day we’ll hear, “There is much joy in that city.”
To read the entire post click here.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

7 Ways to Keep Missional Communities from Multiplying

Want to assure yourself that your missional communities never multiply? Seth McBee gives us seven ways to assure that's the case. To make the point painfully obvious, avoid these common pitfalls and it will lead your church and smaller communities toward healthy multiplication.

1. Never ask anyone to step up and lead
2. Don’t have a unified context for mission
3. Do not have a written vision and plan to make disciples
4. Don’t interact with unbelievers
5. Keep it an event instead of a rhythm
6. Teach at the meetings like a professional
7. Don’t talk about multiplication or the Spirit

For the whole article click here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Church Planting Pastors

Ever wonder what it's like to be married to a church planter? Christine really hit the nail on the head with this post about priorities in planting. My wife would wholeheartedly resonate with the warning to pastors within this letter. Here's a quote:
Church planting is difficult work because it's all-encompassing. The lines between home and ministry are so blurred that it's easy to lose sight of what appropriate boundaries are and what emotional and physical health looks like. Church planters, not a wife in that room cried because we don't understand the pressure you are under or because we have unrealistic expectations of you. We feel the pressure, albeit different pressure, as much as you, and we care about your success probably more than you do.
We love you, we respect you, and we sincerely want to be a help to you. Although we are not a resource just to be used to further your ministry, we are your best resource for life, family, and ministry.

We are your helper, yes, but we need your help, too. We need your understanding and listening ear. 
Read the rest here and revisit the principle frequently.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Acts 19 Strategy

One of the goals of the new vision statement being considered by the EFCA is a call to develop 100 Acts 19 cities. The idea revolves around what happened as the Gospel spread to Ephesus in Acts 19. The strategy being to infiltrate 100 urban centers here and around the world with an aggressive plan for ministry, evangelism, and cultural transformation.

At our recent vision summit at the EFCA headquarters in Minneapolis, the presentation on this strategy was somewhat unclear. Fortunately, I found this document which brought much more clarity. My first take is that this is an exciting God-sized vision. I am hopeful it will motivate us to get involved in the cause of God's missional vision for our cities, nation, and world.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jesus Has Come to Confound You

The most humbling thing I ever did was plant a church. The early days of planting carried with it a degree of doubt and insecurity that was unparalleled in my previous 15 years as a pastor. Ironically, I hope I never forget those days. The desperation and dependance I felt was beautiful. My inability to bear fruit and need for God's help was ever before me. In this spirit, I was recently humbled and encouraged by Zack Eswine's words from his new book Sensing Jesus.
Those of you searching for something larger, faster, and more significant, who feel that if you could just be somewhere else doing something else as somebody else, then you life would really matter- Jesus has come to confound you. I'm not referring to those who need to flee to somewhere else for safety's sake. I am referring to the discontented who have not yet learned what it means that Jesus is our portion and and that he is enough for us. You have wandered far from home. You cannot glorify God by trying to become him… He may just decide to pick you up and carry you to somewhere sexy in order to undo you! He may call you to courageously prize what is overlooked and mundane among those whose cravings for the next and the now might cause them to soon overlook you for another more hip pastor. Or he may call you to nowhere sexy so that you can learn that you can make a difference in Jesus even if you are somewhere forgotten by the world.
Oh that we would always remain humble, no matter our position or authority… content, no matter our calling or abilities. May Jesus be our portion and hope… our life lived for His glory alone.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Church Planting: The Most Impactful Strategy

Here is a classic quote from Dr. Tim Keller from his paper Why Plant Churches written in 2002. I couldn't agree more.
The vigorous, continual planting of new congregations is the single most crucial strategy for 1) the numerical growth of the Body of Christ in any city, and 2) the continual corporate renewal and revival of the existing churches in a city. Nothing else--not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes--will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting. This is an eyebrow raising statement. But to those who have done any study at all, it is not even controversial.

Monday, September 02, 2013

How to Cultivate Meaningful Relationships in Small Groups

As we planted The Vine three years ago, we desired for it to be a place where honest and authentic community was happening in individual relationships and in our groups. This video reminded me how important it is for those of us who are leaders to set that tone for our groups and churches. If we have any hope of seeing honest and meaningful relationships become a common characteristic in our churches, we have to lead the way.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Process for Planters

One of my goals over the next 6 months is to work with a task force to fully develop a process for church planters and churches to engage in multiplication within the Forest Lakes District of the EFCA. My progress in that goal will be evident in a growing website dedicated to district multiplication. This week I've added the following information regarding the process for planters desiring to engage in the district. Please feel free to participate by providing feedback. You can read the entire section on the website here.


1. Application and Assessment: This phase includes a preliminary application, the completion of several assessment tools, an interview with a pre-assessment team, and final recommendations from the team regarding your calling and the training conditions necessary for final assessment.

2. Training: The training phase will look different for every prospective planter based upon the recommendations of the pre-assessment team. For some, the training phase could include a residency or internship, for others the reading of books and attending a boot-camp, yet for others it could include specific training in bi-vocational or rural planting methods.

3. Final Assessment: Once the training phase is completed the prospective planter will go through a final assessment process including several surveys and an interview with an assessment team. This phase will provide a final confirmation for the planter candidate, indicating that the training process has been completed and that the specific vision for planting is sound and a good reflection of the leader's gifts and calling.

4. Planting and Coaching: Once the candidate receives final approval he will become an official planter within the EFCA and begin the transition phase into planting. In the first 2-3 years of planting each planter will work with an oversight team and coach in order to provide the support, encouragement, and accountability necessary for successful planting.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Preaching To Non-Believers

I'm not sure how I missed this post back in January when it was originally posted, but this is a really helpful article on how to better engage with non-believers through preaching. The four steps are listed below and the entire article is here.
  1. Acknowledge and welcome the non-believers in attendance.
  2. Assume the non-believers in attendance need help in approaching the Bible. 
  3. Challenge non-believers to engage the Bible by acknowledging the oddity of Christian belief and practice.
  4. Use cultural commonalities to point out worldview inconsistencies.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Color is Your Church Logo?

One of the steps very early in the life of a church plant involves developing a logo. I found this post by Lawrance Chan very interesting when it comes to what your colors communicate about your "brand". Some good food for thought as you make this important decision early in the life of your church plant.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Six Challenges of Church Planting

In this article Darryl Dash gives us six challenges of church planting as a follow-up to his previous post on the six blessings of church planting. Both helpful for present and prospective church planters.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Church Planting IS a Gospel Initiative

Steve Timmis, the Director of the Acts 29 Network in Western Europe, reminds us in this video of the root initiative that leads us to plant churches.

Ask Steve: Why is it important to see church planting as a gospel-initiative? from Acts 29 Europe on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We Multiply Churches Website Online

Today I worked on stripping down our district planting website to the bare bones and began the rebuilding process. I am looking forward to this site growing to become front door resource for people interested in planting within the district and churches learning how better to participate in the cause of church multiplication. Stay tuned for ongoing updates at

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Heart for Mission Here and Now

If you're a Christian you've likely experienced a feeling of urgency for the cause of global mission and a sense of apathy in your own life when it comes to being a light of the Gospel in your work, home, and neighborhood. Though we should be passionate for God's global work, we need to also recognize the significant need that is right before us. Now more than ever, we need to adapt a missionary mentality if we have any hopes of making an influence in our present culture. In his book SoulTsunami Leonard Sweet writes:
Only two countries have more non-believers than the US: India and China. The US is the third largest mission field in the world. Unfortunately, our efforts at evangelizing the unchurched have all the pace of a southern summer. Few believers have relationships, much less friendships with non-believers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Living as a Christian in Culture

If we are faithful in mission as Christians, we are forced to wrestle with what it means to be in the world and yet also distinctly Christian. Our tendency is to live in dualism,"This is my church life and this is my work life." In contrast to this, the Gospel of Jesus should saturate every aspect of how we view and interact with others in our places of work and life in general. Here are some thoughts from Mason King at The Village blog:
The Christian lives under a tension of duality, looking to participate in and benefit from secular culture while simultaneously being called to live according to God’s ways. The common inclination is to keep the two separate.... The believer’s call is to realize that God is at work in culture through common grace, using all things to carry forth His purposes. This changes the triumphant desire to redeem and restore culture through our own efforts to a gospel-centered response to grace. It sends the Christian into the culture to live, as Timothy Keller puts it, “with Christian distinctiveness,” intentionally walking out the implications of the gospel in each arena or role in life.

A call to excellence alone would fall short—many people are excellent at what they do but are driven by motives other than the glory of God. Some Christians pursue success in God’s Name and for His glory but trample the tenets of the gospel in their pursuit instead of displaying thoughtful and articulate application of the gospel to their work. The Christian strives to contribute excellence to the culture through a life marked by Christian distinctiveness. This changes the way we interact with our waiter, our co-workers, our boss and our spouse. It changes the motives of our heart from self-centered indulging or protecting actions to God-focused response and praise.

Walking out the implications of the gospel in your daily life takes thoughtful consideration of how the gospel applies to your work, talents, neighborhood and home. Believing lawyers, teachers, artists, nurses and parents exhibit Christian distinctiveness differently due to the inherent nature of their vocation.... Thoughtfulness of action and speech are the fruits of a heart changed by the grace of God in Christ. This heart sees no divide between a secular and sacred world but sees God’s creation that He is working to redeem. This empowers the imagination of a believer to see God’s design for their work and to strive toward its intended beauty in society. When this is the lens of the heart’s vision, we see opportunities to align our lives to God’s ways at every turn. Our behavior shines like the light it is in the dark world around it.
For the whole article click here.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

National Multiplication Director Announced

Jeff Sorvik was just announced the new national Director of Church Multiplication for the Evangelical Free Church of America. Looking forward to working with you Jeff!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Driscoll on Growing Your Church

Here's a good reminder for existing churches on how to grow your churches influence in the lives of more people by Mark Driscoll, Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In it he is referring to "new branches" as people who are new converts or visitors and "old branches" as existing or seasoned members and attenders. The illustration breaks down if you take it too far, but as usual, his thoughts are helpful, especially for pastors who tend to get distracted by managing existing people and problems. One main take away is that it's important to give a portion of our ministry time to build relationships with people who don't know Christ or are newly growing in Him. 
Leave room in your schedule to meet with new people and new converts. When you meet folks ask them where they live and if they are at another church just visiting or considering your church. Don’t meet with folks who live elsewhere or are in another church. Do meet with folks in your area who are new to your church. Don’t hand off the visitor assimilation so far down the food chain that you don’t know the new branches and fruit. If you want, tell folks from the front where you will be after church and that you want to meet the new people and give them a gift of a free book. Tell everyone else where to go for prayer and to connect with the old branches. You go somewhere else. Welcome new folks joyfully, have a gift, and get their information then so you can follow up. Even if you close 1 family a Sunday you grow by a few hundred in a year. And, new people bring new people. if you are feeling real crazy, do a monthly new people dessert meet the pastor and his wife in your home. Larry Osborne still does this at 8000 and gets to scout new leaders and people firsthand so he keeps doing it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Meaning Behind Harry Potter

This video isn't new. It was released by Jerram Barrs at Covenant Seminary in 2011; however, it has new meaning to me because last night my family just finished the Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We'd held off this long because the younger kids weren't quite ready for it at Christmas.

What was so satisfying, beyond viewing the final movie in this series, was following it up with the 6 minute video by Jerram where he unpacks his observations regarding the Christian symbolism within. In light of the popularity of this movie series, we'd be remiss to not see the platform it presents for the Gospel as we discuss with with our friends and acquaintances.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why Millenials are Leaving the Church

Though there must be Biblical practices and convictions that never change in our churches, there are a myriad of practices and strategies that should often change as we seek to contextualize our message to the culture in which we live. This is why I find Rachel Held Evans recent interview on so interesting. Though I don't agree with some of her theological or social perspectives, in this article she shares some interesting thoughts regarding why millennials (I believe this age range includes those in their 20-30s) are leaving the church. As a pastor in a church that is largely millennial, many of her statements are consistent with what I've observed. Below is a portion of the article and you can read the entire thing here
But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances. In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular. Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.... We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Three Things That Will Kill Your Church Plant in the First Year

A good post sent to me by Zach Nielsen from Michael Lukaszewski on some basic land mines every church planter should try to avoid including...
  1. Launching too many ministries
  2. Being sidetracked by difficult people
  3. Working in it, not on it
For the full post, go here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Do Numbers Matter?

In this blog post my colleague Zach Nielsen features a couple opposing views on the value of numerics in churches. This is an issue that deserves a balanced perspective, especially when church leaders and denominations base their success and strategies on numeric growth... an important yet not always helpful measure of success.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Church Planting Churches Flourish

Jeffrey C. Farmers Ph.D. dissertation, "Church Planting Sponsorship" at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2007 found that over 300 churches who sponsored church plants flourished in the wake of their commitment. In the first five years after beginning a planting sponsorship worship attendance increased 22%, financial giving increased 48%, and designations toward areas such as foreign missions increased 77%.

Bottom line, healthy and growing churches are committed to multiplying churches!

Monday, July 08, 2013

Best Financial Tools for Church Planters: Online Bookkeeping

In my continuing series on Best Financial Tools for Church Planters I am focusing on online book keeping. There are a lot of different options for church's to track finances and I am far from an expert in that regard. I do, however, have experience at managing finances for a church plant and speaking to other church planters who have had similar responsibilities.

The most popular option for bookkeeping has been Quickbooks Online. Below are some reasons this is a good choice for a church planter.
  • You can access your books from any computer at any time. 
  • There is more accountability because numerous users can access the books
  • You will no longer need to run files back and forth to your bookkeeper or accountant
  • You can take advantage of all the powerful features Quickbooks offers like syncing with your bank, managing payroll, printing checks, etc...
  • You can synchronize your account categories with expense tracking programs like Expensify, which was featured in the last post
Below is a recent video review that reviews Quickbooks Online in more detail.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

New EFCA Mission and Vision

Over the last few days the Evangelical Free Church of America unveiled a new mission and vision statement. The mission statement was minimally tweaked (transformational for healthy) and the vision is something new.

The EFCA exists to glorify God by multiplying transformational churches among all people. 
We are praying that God would grant us one million disciplemakers impacting one hundred million people with the gospel along with one hundred million people with the gospel along with one hundred Acts 19 locations globally where the gospel is transforming whole cities and regions rather than simply a neighborhood. 
What little I've heard about the Acts 19 strategy involves an effort of ReachGlobal (the global missions arm) to saturate key global cities with a focused infusion of people and resources for the sake of generating city-wide movements that trigger kingdom expansion in entire regions. It will be interesting to see where this all leads in the days and years to come.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Beasts, Yet Cowards

Thanks to Joe Thorn for this great summary post of last weeks Acts 29 Lead Pastor's retreat. I was equally moved and convicted by these words Matt shared.
During the final message of the retreat, Matt Chandler made a statement regarding our evangelistic and gospel presence in the community as pastors. These words were burned into my heart as soon as he spoke them, and they have been echoing in me ever since. Matt said, "A beast in the pulpit, but a coward in the neighborhood is not a win!"

It is generally easier to be courageous on Sunday mornings with the people of God, yet cowardly among the lost during the rest of the week. Gospel boldness is almost effortless among those who already affirm it, but it can be far more difficult when we must stand before others and herald the good news they find foolish. "A beast in the pulpit, but a coward in the neighborhood is not a win." Truth. Let me also say it this way, "Woe is me if I am bold among the people of God, but timid among the lost."
(HT: Joe Thorn)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Don't Waste Your Holiday

Wow, this is good. How not to waste the 4th of July....
So don’t cheapen this Independence Day by simply making it about burgers and beer. Dare to discuss the realities of sacrifice, self-denial and honor. Plant seeds about the cost of freedom in the hearts of your sons and daughters. Consider how you might use the opportunity to help your children think about the grace we enjoy as a country. Pray for those who do not enjoy the gift of freedom. How can this day serve as a conversation starter with those you celebrate with? Help your family to dream a little bigger and expect a little more.
(HT: Josh Patterson

Healthy Churches Reproduce

Some good food for thought from the book Viral Churches,
The healthiest churches are those who reproduce, according to a national research project called FACT2008. Among Protestant congregations surveyed, those whose leadership spent the most time recruiting and training other leaders were the healthiest. Similar results came from leaders who promoted a clear vision and emphasized evangelism. The massive survey factored in results from more than 2,000 randomly selected Protestant congregations.
From the book Viral Churches by Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Acts 29 Conference

I won't be blogging next week due to the Act 29 lead pastor conference. Please check back the following week for the continuation in my series on Financial Tools for Church Planters as well as other posts relevant to church planting. Have a blessed week!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Best Financial Tools for Church Planters: Digital Tracking of Expenses

This is part two in my ongoing series of Best Financial Tools for Church Planters

To start, I want to clarify that I have not researched all the options out there for tracking spending electronically, but I am going to feature one product that has been revolutionary in our church planting experience. The system we've used at The Vine has not only blessed us in the early years of church planting, but would have been a helpful shift in the way expense tracking was handled in my previous church experiences as well.

 The product I am referring to is Expensify. For more detailed information on the product, go check out the website here. For a quick look at how we use the product, which is free for the first two users and $5 a month for each additional, read on.

To set-up your account, you have the ability to either customize spending categories in the program or to import those categories from your book keeping software like Quickbooks. Once the accounts are set-up, the users download the app onto their smartphones (droid or iPhone) and are ready to go. From that point forward when any purchase is made either on a church credit card (or personal card for reimbursement) the expense is entered into the app and a photo is taken of the receipt, which is then attached to the spending record. This means no more fat wallets or lost receipts, because they are all stored digitally in your Expensify account! In the featured image you can see what the expense form looks like on the iphone.

The last step for the employee is to file their monthly spending report by going online and pulling all the expenses into a report which is submitted by the click of a button to the book keeper for processing. And there you have it, an essential expense tracking tool for church planters!

Monday, June 10, 2013

You Need a Pastor and Church, Not Just a Podcast

A good word here from Geoff Ashley at The Village Church blog. So much is sacrificed when one neglects the "beauty and necessity of the local church." It's not easy, it takes work, but you can't be healthy without it. From Geoff...
This tendency, unfortunately, is not limited to the early church but now plagues American Christianity. Each week, scores of believers forsake the assembly of the saints and, instead, tune in to a televised, streamed or podcast sermon. While radio offered the first taste of listening to a sermon within the comforts of the home, modern technology affords the opportunity to listen on the road, in the gym or on a mountain. These benefits are incredible blessings that should be used for our edification, but they are no substitute for the local church.
 (HT: Village Church)

25 Things She Learned from Church Planting

Christine Hoover, church planters wife and author of the book The Church Planting Wife featured the top 25 things she learned from church planting on the Gospel Coalition Blog. Below are a few of the ones I resonated with, for the rest go here.
  • Hospitality is essential.
  • Church planting teaches two things more than any other: that God is faithful and that we must learn how to depend on that faithful God.
  • The Word is living and active. When we let God speak through his Word, he changes people. Every church plant must gather earnestly around the Word and the Christ to which it points.
  • Most people, especially outsiders, don't know what it means when you say you're church planting. And they think you're a little crazy.
  • The calling to church plant must be sure since you'll need to return to it again and again in the face of discouragement, defeat, and uncertainty.
  • The gospel is everything: it sustains when discouragement comes (and it always does), it keeps a church planter and his wife in their city (because there will be times when they want to give up and leave), it compels its ministers forward (and sometimes it's the only motivation left), and it changes lives (which makes it all worth it).
  • Slow and steady growth is healthy growth. Explosive growth can be fragile growth.
  • Church plants should never be started by someone disgruntled or unable to sit under authority at his former church. Church plants cannot be rebuttals to another pastor's methods and ideas.
  • They must be built on a clear call from God.
  • There is unimaginable joy and reward in sacrifice and service.

Friday, June 07, 2013

The Vast and Endless Sea

I was moved reading this quote from Antoine de Saint-Expury this week:
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
An important reminder as we scramble to find success in good methods and leadership ability. The most helpful means for mission advance is to help people see a clear vision and yearn for that which is greater than themselves. What is our "vast and endless sea"? It is found in the glories of Christ, the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the one through whom all things were created, who made peace by the blood of the cross. (Col 1:15-20)

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Best Financial Tools For Church Planters: A Financial Oversight Strategy

This is part 1 in my series on the Best Financial Tools for Church Planters. This week we'll explore the need for a financial oversight team (i.e. people who help you in the oversight of finances)

Every church planter needs to have either a sponsoring church, denomination, or an external financial oversight team (or a combination of the three) that is helping them in the management of church finances. One of my first priorities within my district of the EFCA will be to clearly delineate the methods by which finances can and should be managed in various church planting contexts. Here are a few ways in which external financial teams can be established:

Sponsoring Church: At The Vine, we have made the commitment to provide administrative and book keeping services for all of our direct church plants for a minimum of two years. This is proving to be such a blessing as we prepare to launch Redeemer City Church within the next year. Church planters can be quickly overwhelmed by the minutia of church management. By having an existing church provide the financial oversight, a planter is free to focus on the mission of establishing a core and building relationships with those who need Christ in their city.

Denomination: I am still learning how this process has been practiced in our own district, but am aware that church planters in a denomination are often invited to manage their funds through their regional office. The oversight for this model includes office staff and those over church planting within the district. Some of the financial tools available from denominations include seed money for initial equipment needs, zero-interest loans, accounting services, and employee benefits.

External Financial Team: Most church plants do not have the established trust or necessary skills within their core team to manage finances internally. This is why, when we planted The Vine, we established an external financial accountability team made up of former church treasurers at Parkview Church, the church I transitioned out of when becoming a planter. My only concern with this model is that it's too easy for the responsibilities of management to fall back on the planter. When this occurs there is a lack of accountability for the planter and also a greater risk that the planter will become overwhelmed with the details of money management.

If you know of other models or have questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Pastor vs. Planter

When we (the planting team) planted The Vine we never really distinguished ourselves between being a planter or a pastor. We were simply pastors who were planting. We were also never a church plant or a church. We were simply a young church being planted. In this post Darryl cautions us regarding this tension both in our role and location as planters.
Many of us can come across like planting is where it's at, or that planting in an urban context is the thing. Planting is important, but we sometimes unwittingly give the impression that pastoring an established church, especially outside of the city, is second-best. That's unfortunate. Both planting and pastoring are important. While cities are important, so are the suburbs and so are the rural places.
 (HT: Dashhouse)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Best Financial Tools for Church Planters (And Pastors)

Every week over the next few months I am going to feature a different "financial tool" that can be a great help to church planters as they lead and establish a new church. Here's a sneak peak at some of the categories I'll be covering. Though these are some of the most helpful areas I could think of, feel free to share your own tools in the comment section or suggest topics I may have forgotten. In the mean time, stay tuned as I work through each of these areas in more detail through upcoming posts.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Resurrecting the Blog

Over the course of the next month I will be taking on a new role with the Forest Lakes District of the Evangelical Free Church of America as the Director of Church Multiplication. My role as co-lead Pastor at The Vine Church will continue, but I will be shutting down my photography studio in order to accommodate the new role. In line with this change, I will be resurrecting Deo Gloria as a place where I will share information as a resource to church planters and pastors. Though I'll be spending my first few months with the district getting my feet wet, I would expect a somewhat regular stream of information flowing from this blog as I focus more efforts on studying and communicating resources for planters and pastors.